How to cope with hearing voices

About voices, who hears them and how to cope if they are a problem.

Your stories

Hearing voices

Lucy
Posted on 09/01/2013

Hearing voices with bipolar disorder

Katie, who has bipolar disorder, describes her experience of hearing voices when she is manic or depressed.

Katie
Posted on 16/12/2014

He/ She/ They/ It

In the first part of Lilith's blog, they share their experience of gender identity and hearing voices.

Lilith
Posted on 20/07/2015

How can I help myself cope?

This page covers:

Will I ever get rid of my voices?

Some people do get rid of their voices. But many people find that they never go completely. Finding an approach that works best for you can help you come to terms with your voices and develop a better relationship with them.

Understand your voices

Understanding more about voices in your life now and how they relate to your past may help you:

  • feel more in control
  • recognise when your voices are causing problems
  • stand up to your voices
  • develop a better relationship with your voices so they don't interfere with your life or prevent you from making your own choices.

I understand I don’t have to give in to their demands. I can negotiate and wait before acting on instructions and try grounding techniques to distract myself.

Voices and your past

These questions might help you think about how your voices relate to your past.

  • What was happening when I first heard voices?
  • Where was I? How was I feeling?
  • What did they say?
  • What did they sound like? What age were they?
  • Do they represent a person or problem?
  • Are there any patterns to the voices?

You may be able to identify voices as individuals from your past or as representing yourself at different ages.

They may be related more indirectly to a traumatic event.

Voices and your life now

These questions might help you think about voices in your life now.

  • Do I hear voices at a particular time or place?
  • What is happening when I hear voices?
  • What do the voices want me to do?
  • What do I want to do?

You may start to recognise when your voices are causing problems and what makes them worse.

This could help you identify when you need to look for support or look after yourself. It may help you feel more in control.

Keep a diary

Some people find that keeping a diary can help them answer some of these questions. For example, you could record when you hear voices, what they say, their tone of voice and how they made you feel. Looking back over what you've written could help you see any patterns to the voices and understand how they affect you over a longer period of time.

My voices were very prevalent around food times and times I was doing nothing.

Take control

You may not want to explore the story behind your voices in depth. But there are still things you could do to help you feel more in control. Here are some suggestions:

  • Ignore the voices, block them out or distract yourself. You could try listening to music on headphones, exercising, cooking or knitting.You might have to try a few different distractions to find what works for you.
  • Give them times when you agree to talk to them and times when you will not.
  • Tell them that you would like to wait before you do what they say.
  • Stand up to them. Tell them they have no power over you and try to ignore their commands and threats.
  • Try to ignore the voices you don't like and focus on the ones you find easier to listen to.
  • Try and 'ground' yourself in what is around you by focusing on doing something simple like watering a plant or washing up. Our information on mindfulness has more information on this technique.

We would write letters to my voice to ask what it was they wanted from me and how I didn't like what they were doing to me anymore.

Talk to other people who hear voices

A safe space to talk to other people who hear voices can help you to feel heard and understood.

Peer support groups for people who hear voices can:

  • help you feel less alone - you may be relieved to hear that other people have similar experiences
  • help you talk about hearing voices in a safe, non judgmental place
  • help you gain new perspectives and insight into your voices
  • allow you to help others too
  • help you feel accepted and listened to
  • be great for your self esteem
  • encourage you to make your own choices and decisions about how you want to deal with your voices

The Hearing Voices Network has over 180 groups across the UK. Your local Mind may also run voices groups. See our pages on peer support for more information.

If you don't want to attend a support group or can't find one locally then you could think about looking for online support. You might like to try:

See our pages on online support and staying safe online for more information.

As soon as I began talking, I found my voice again and the fear slowly evaporated.

Look after yourself

  • Try to get enough sleep. Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. Voices may make it difficult for you to get enough sleep. You might find it helpful to learn relaxation techniques. Our pages on coping with sleep problems and relaxation have more information.
  • Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. Our pages on food and mood have more information.
  • Try and take some exercise. Exercise can be really helpful for your mental wellbeing. Our pages on physical activity have more information.

Watch James, who has experienced hearing voices and depression, talk about how his hobbies have helped him manage his mental health.

Spiritual help

If you feel that your voices are a spiritual experience, you might want to talk to someone from your faith. Unfortunately not all of them will understand your experience but some psychiatrists may be able to suggest someone who can help. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has more information about spirituality and mental health.

The recovery approach

The Hearing Voices Network have a particular approach to voices. They say that you should try to accept that your voices are real, that they come from you and belong to you and that they are related to your life history.

This is based on an approach called the recovery approach. It uses the word 'recovery' in a slightly different way than usual. The main principles of the recovery approach are:

  • living the best life you can with your life experiences and the consequences they have had
  • building your resilience and wellbeing and focusing on what you can do, not what you can't
  • making your own choices
  • being your own person
  • seeing recovery as a journey, not a destination and accepting you might have setbacks
  • seeing setbacks as ways of learning more about yourself and what works (and doesn't work) for you
  • maintaining hope

Read more about recovery and what recovery means to different people on Rethink Mental Illness' website.

 


This information was published in May 2016. We will revise it in 2019.


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